The government is today bringing forward changes that will improve building and fire safety so that people will be safer in their homes.
The Grenfell Tower fire in West London on June 14 2017, claimed 72 lives. The tragedy exposed serious failings across the whole system of building and managing high-rise homes.
The government asked Dame Judith Hackitt to carry out an independent review of building regulations and fire safety to understand the causes of the fire. The review concluded that the whole system needed major reform and that residents’ safety needed to be a greater priority through the entire life cycle of a building – from design and construction, through to when people are living in their homes.
The government accepted the review’s recommendations and this draft Bill, which, alongside the existing Fire Safety Bill and fire safety consultation will set out how the government is bringing forward those proposals to provide the biggest improvements to building safety in nearly 40 years.
What does it mean for the industry?
The draft Bill will make sure that those responsible for the safety of residents are accountable for any mistakes and must put them right. It will fully establish the regulator that will enforce new rules and take strong actions against those who break them.
The regulator will have three main functions: to oversee the safety and standard of all buildings, directly assure the safety of higher-risk buildings; and improve the competence of people responsible for managing and overseeing building work.
It will operate a new, more stringent set of rules for high-rise residential buildings. The new set of rules, contained in the draft Bill, will apply when buildings are designed, constructed and then later occupied. At each of these three stages, it will be clear who is responsible for managing the potential risks and what is required to move to the next stage enabling a ‘golden thread’ of vital information about the building to be gathered over its lifetime.
When residents move into a building that falls under the new set of rules, it will need to be registered with the Building Safety Regulator and apply for a Building Assurance Certificate. The Accountable Person will then need to conduct and maintain a safety case risk assessment for the building and appoint a Building Safety Manager to oversee it day-to-day.
Building inspectors who are responsible for signing buildings off as safe for people to live in will also have to follow the new rules and must register with the regulator.
The draft Bill will also give the government new powers to better regulate construction materials and products and ensure they are safe to use.
What else has the government announced?
The government is doing its part in bringing forward the legislation but the industry, which has fed into these reforms from the start, must now lead the way.
The government has banned the use of combustible materials on the external walls of high-rise buildings, published clearer guidance on existing regulations that buildings owners must follow, and are now making it mandatory for sprinklers to be fitted in all new blocks of flats over 11m high.
The government has identified buildings with unsafe Aluminium Composite Material (ACM) cladding and are providing £600mn to remove and replace it in both private and social-sector homes over 18 metres high. As part of this, they will be providing £1bn to remove and replace non-ACM cladding materials from high-rise residential blocks.
As part of its response to the report from Phase 1 of the Grenfell Tower Inquiry, the government has introduced the Fire Safety Bill to Parliament. This gives local fire and rescue services the power to make sure building owners deal with potential fire risks in their building.
The draft Bill will be published today as the government is keen for it to receive further views from parliamentarians, residents and industry via the Parliamentary process of pre-legislative scrutiny, before the Bill is then introduced to Parliament.